Sep 26, 2012

By Tony Best

With the NFL in full swing, it’s the season for crazy playoff predictions, merciless smack-talking and sharpening "Madden 13" skills to a fine point. And, it’s a time when Monday nights get a little less dreary. That’s right – it’s the return of "Monday Night Football," now running 43 seasons strong and still racking up significant rating shares.

In honor of gridiron glory at the start of the week (and in memoriam of NFL Films visionary Steve Sabol, RIP), we’ve put together an assemblage of some standout "MNF" spots from the last four decades.

Under the aegis of designer Harry Marks, ABC’s creative team produced this hallucinatory promo for "MNF’s" launch, replete with trippy graphics and horror movie-style narration.


The Juice gets loose in this ’74 regular season opener, a time when O.J. Simpson was still someone you'd want spearheading your campaign. 


The Bears and William "The Refrigerator" Perry smash their way to the Super Bowl Shuffle. "You'll love it!"

Hank Williams, Jr.'s theme for the 1989 campaign would become one of the most enduring songs in sports promo history. ESPN finally yanked the rousing number this year, nearly 25 years after its debut, after Williams's over-the-top political conservatism started overshadowing his musical gifts. We all need a little help from our friends.


The following season, Williams's song established itself as a trademark, behind a bold integration featuring ABC hits such as "Perfect Strangers" and "America's Funniest Home Videos," not to mention an appearance by Bo Jackson, who made some of his most exciting plays on Monday nights. Bo knows promo!

For its silver anniversary, Monday Night Football rolled out a hilarious spot auditioning an array of possible new theme song performers, including a doo-wop group and an elderly accordionist. In the end, the by-now-old standard won out: Williams. Are you ready for some football?

Nobody could deliver a line like "Yeah, but most were busts" like the late, great Leslie Nielsen.

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